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The Harvest

For the good of all

By Lily SéjorPublished 18 days ago 6 min read
Top Story - July 2024

Koyi wobbled to her shabby wood and straw kaz, holding her machete and an old burlap bag with some yams. Someone had laid another basket in front of the patched up door—rose apples today. They were a bright reddish pink, looking waxy and crisp, just the way she liked them. The culprit knew her very well. Those would be crunchy, juicy and sweet—she could tell—but she gathered all the will she could muster and pushed the basket aside to enter her home. She had already said no repeatedly and would not be taking bribes.

When she got in, leaves rustled furiously in the trees all around the house. She could not help but smirk.

Within minutes, there was a knock on the door.

“To to to?” She recognized that voice.

However rude it may have been, she did not feel like playing the game of asking who it was. It did not matter.

“Ma’ Koyi, you here?”

She grumbled and made her way to the door. She had taken her shoes off and her feet were hot lead. She half dragged, half threw them forward and winced with every step. The door opened to reveal the radiant face of her youngest niece.

“Good afternoon, Ma’ Koyi.” Getting no answer from the old aunt, the young woman looked down and continued. “How are your legs today?”

“My feets.”

“Yes, how are your feet, my aunt?”

“Come in, Dèdè.” She turned around and labored her way to her chair, gesturing for her uninvited guest to sit.

Delphine had left Melville years ago to study in a prestigious school in Pointe-à-Pitre—where people’s French was good. Koyi adored her niece. This strategy was a low blow, even from her brother-in-law.

“You here for long, Dèdè?”

“I was hoping to be there for the harvest.”

“Hmmm…” Straight to the point, she was. Koyi respected that.

“Fifty years of impeccable harvest recorded since 1896. Something is not right, my aunt. The sugarcane should be three heads taller and ripe. Flowers should be shooting from every patch.”

“Yes, it a month late.”

“Exactly! And the rains are coming soon. People are scared, Ma’ Koyi. Sugarcane is the only thing the cutters have. The planters…”

“De planters is buckra!” Koyi interrupted, twisting her lips in disgust.

“Maybe so, my aunt. But they give the cutters jobs. And there’s not enough yams, sweet potatoes or coffee to fill up Papa’s truck.” Delphine’s eyes were doing the begging her lips could not. Koyi looked away.

“Who dig de soil for yams when Joseph dead? Huh?” Her voice was trembling, lost between anger and pain; eyes darting left and right as if looking for a place to settle and find peace. “I done pay high price fi de whole village already. My boy go dead in buckras’ war. And I here alone.” Her voice broke.

“I know, my aunt.” Delphine said in a whisper that carried collective guilt.

Every village had contributed three soldiers to the Second World War, part of the war effort they had called it. Other people’s war, Koyi would say. The two young men who had made it back were shaken for months but reunited with public life. Koyi’s grief was too ugly, unbearable to look at; so most people averted their gaze, postponed their visits and eventually stopped coming.

“Every village in Saint Ann from Melville to Gran Bwa have enough yams fi eat. Cutters not go starve,” the aunt spat with venom in her throat.

“Children need books and clothes too, my aunt.” Delphine pleaded.

Koyi paused.

Indeed… the yams in Melville had made Delphine strong but it was her education that had made her a sophisticated woman and an overall success. Could she deprive other children of that opportunity? Was it fair that they paid for the sins of their parents? But also… what of the price? She remained silent for a moment and exhaled—from what felt like the depths of her soul—then she turned to the young woman.

“Niece… today Wednesday. Good day fi work with de ancestors. And ten days until de longest day of de year.” Delphine straightened her back with palpable excitement for what was coming next. “Before sun set tonight, I want see a glass of water and a glass of rum in front of every house. It must be done every day.”

“Yes, Ma’ Koyi. I’ll tell Papa.” She stood.

“Child… We talkin’ harvestin’ tons of standin’ water in ten days. You know de price higher.” Delphine sat back, neck stiff from the knowing. “Friday, at sun down, we kill one goat, one rooster. We do it every evenin’ for a week.”

Delphine hesitated, mouthing silent words for a few seconds.

“Sacrifices usually come in threes, my aunt. No… pigeon?” Delphine asked.

“No!” Koyi replied curtly. “Goat and rooster.” Then she turned to the window and spoke louder. “I no care where they come from. They gots to be ready before sun down by de water fountain.”

Foot steps scattered from her front door and under her window.

Koyi continued. “We askin’ a lot, Dèdè. We must pay a lot.” Her eyes were heavy with sadness.

“The people are poor but they can make this sacrifice, Ma’ Koyi.” The old woman did not reply and proceeded to unload the contents of her burlap bag.

Word spread fast. Koyi was going to do it after all. She was showing mercy despite the neighbors’ lapse in compassion. Every evening from the following Friday, heads hung low and shamed eyes looked at the packed dirt ground when the villagers handed the daily goat and rooster. A knife was drawn and blood was collected and mixed into seven calabashes. Adults held candles to light the way and children plunged their hands in the warm, sticky liquid to sprinkle every field. In the morning, at sunrise, one person in each household collected the glass of rum, presented it to the East and poured it in front of the home. They presented the glass of water to the West and poured it the same way. The sacrificed meat was seasoned. Some of it was grilled; some was stewed; all was shared. The best plates were kept for Orisha Oko—the Divine—for the ancestors and for Koyi.

Alone, the elder would kneel at the center of the village, in the high midday sun, drawing symbols in the dirt none recognized and mumbling words none could hear. But every evening, when it came time for their bloody libations, they found the sugarcane stalks just a bit taller and a tad thicker.

During the week of ritual, Delphine cared for her old aunt’s house and processed the baskets and calabashes of fruits and spices left daily in front of the kaz. Koyi, herself, barely ate and spoke even less. It was all perhaps requiring more of the woman than expected. Were it not for these extraordinary circumstances, Delphine would have thought something dark was afoot.

On the morning of the twenty first of June, after they had poured their last glasses of water and rum at sunrise, the villagers hurried to the fields to find fluffy white and pink flowers shooting two heads above the tall stalks. They were fluttering like thick yet airy ostrich feathers in the wind. The cane was ready. No one missed a beat. All started to chop, bundle and load.

Delphine brought the celebration to Koyi, with a freshly fried platter of codfish johnnycakes and just now squeezed lime juice sweetened with molasses she knew her aunt would love.

“To to to?” Her cheery voice danced with impatience. “Ma’ Koyi, you here?” Knocking was a courtesy, as there were no locks in Melville. Delphine pushed the door open to reveal the body of her aunt slumped in her chair, eyes open. Her kerosene lamp was still burning low on the table and her face was peaceful as if she had simply fallen asleep while remembering the sweet taste of rose apples on her lips.

Indeed, as any spiritual worker or villager knew, sacrifices did come in threes.

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About the Creator

Lily Séjor

Lily is really not the best at describing herself, so she'll put this down for now and circle back when (if) she's inspired. For now, she wants you to know that she's your verbose friend who rarely knows what to say.

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Outstanding

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Comments (16)

  • THE EXPRESS PIZZA15 days ago

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  • Kalina Bethany16 days ago

    This was such a great piece I couldn’t stop reading, congrats on the top story Lily!!

  • Lana V Lynx16 days ago

    Oh, wow, Lily, this was absolutely brilliantly told. I loved the flow and grip of the plot and Koyi is such a strong fully developed character. Thank you for the great story!

  • The Dani Writer17 days ago

    Oh wow. That was powerful! A smooth connected plot and a story that kept me reading. A well-chosen top story!

  • Ali SP17 days ago

    Great writing. I appreciated the cultural references and the orisha magic! It made me want to sip on some sugarcane juice.

  • Gina C.17 days ago

    I am captivated by this story and the way you've written it. Wonderful, wonderful work! ❤️

  • Liam Storm17 days ago

    Amazingly told! I thought about what the 3rd sacrifice would be, yet somehow still wasn't expecting it! Well deserved top story congrats!

  • Hannah Moore18 days ago

    Brilliant. I was hooked, waiting for that third, though I knew what it would be...

  • Shenalyn Abion18 days ago

    Very nice 👍

  • Cyrus18 days ago

    Congrats on TS Lily!

  • Sam Avery18 days ago

    Excellent work amazing good job

  • Ameer Bibi18 days ago

    just amazing many congratulations on TS

  • Sublime! I was transported. Amazing how you make us care about these characters in such a short space.

  • Outstanding on so many levels!!!

  • D.K. Shepard18 days ago

    Absolutely mesmerizing from start to finish! This is fantastic storytelling! I felt completely immersed in the setting and plight of the people. Koyi was such a compelling character. Really excellent, Lily! Hope to see this as a challenge winner!

  • Randy Baker18 days ago

    Brilliant. Is this set in Guadeloupe?

Lily SéjorWritten by Lily Séjor

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